Walking the City of London

Month: December 2019

Christmas Lights and unusual sights

Lighting really has become sophisticated!

Wandering over the St Alphage Highwalk just before Christmas I saw these odd shapes in the distance (EC2Y 5EL) …

This is what they looked like on closer inspection …

Good fun, I thought, but not all that interesting.

Passing by again that evening was a totally different experience as the ‘flowers’ changed colour in a fascinating sequence …


Then I saw these odd cubes in the Salters’ Hall Gardens …

They look like they are floating in the air …

Here’s one in close up …

Nice but not as dramatic as last years’ display.

Unfortunately I have no idea what these letters and numbers signify …

Even without the Christmas enhancements I like the London Wall Place lighting very much and you can read more about the thinking and planning behind it here.

As every year, Tower 42 amuses us with a homage to ‘Christmas Jumper Day’ …

And its usual Christmas tree …

You also see some strange sights around the City this time of year. For example, this Star Wars Stormtrooper patrolling the desks in the WeWork building …

And this unusual evening visitor to Salters’ Hall …

And finally, Shard Lights returned on 9th December 2019, transforming the top 20 storeys of The Shard into an exciting and colourful spectacle, visible across the capital.

The show, designed with help from local schoolchildren, features three, nine-minute sequences displayed every half hour from 4pm to 1am each evening throughout the month. Each sequence reflects the children’s designs and here are a few examples …

On New Year’s Eve there will be a unique display from when the clock strikes midnight to the early hours of New Year’s Day before the show comes to a close.

All best wishes for 2020!

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The Christmas Quiz!

Hello, friends,

Wow, doesn’t time fly. It’s time for another Christmas quiz!

There are 20 questions with answers supplied at the end of the blog. All questions relate to subjects I have written about during 2019.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  1. This extraordinary building near Liverpool Street Station is now a restaurant. But what was it when it first opened in 1895?

2. This man as portrayed in glazed faience reliefs in Widegate Street is clearly working very hard. What does he have in the sack?

3. What’s the name of the alley where this ecclesiastical man’s head peers down on us?

4. You’ll find various versions of this elegant lady throughout the City. What famous livery company does she represent?

5. Just what is this happy chap up to?

6. These men are going to meet a nasty end in this 1964 horror movie. What was the film called and what City church are they entering?

7. Where is this winged horse and what is it an emblem of?

8. This voluptuous lady resting on a plinth in the Broadgate Centre has an appropriate nickname. What is it?

9. Why is the Thames riverbank littered with thousands of lumps of chalk?

10. This pretty lady in a Hart Street church looks like she is in mid-conversation. Who is she?

11. These offices in Garrett Street off Golden Lane have a very shallow, sloping set of stairs as a result of the original use of the building in 1897. What was that use?

12. What famous piece of home entertainment equipment was once manufactured in these premises on Old Street? The name of the building is a subtle clue.

13. What can you sometimes hear if you put your ear to this grating at the junction of Greville Street and Saffron Hill?

14. Where can you find this wall tile representing the Palace of Westminster?

15. Why does this elaborate water fountain memorial contain a carving of a Christmas cracker?

16. This creature was a sculptor’s best effort at imagining what an alligator looked like. Where is it?

17. Where is this unusual post box and what is particularly odd about it?

18. Why did the word ‘Resurgam’ have a particular significance for Sir Christopher Wren?

19. What was the connection between the Thomas Cook Travel agency and Fleet Street?

20. No one takes much notice of it now, but why was this piece of street furniture once known as ‘The Pump of Death’?

Answers to the Quiz

  1. It’s in Bishopsgate Churchyard near Liverpool Street Station and was originally a Turkish Bath. You can read all about its history here.

2. Also near Liverpool Street Station, this is the exterior of the former Nordheim Model Bakery at 12-13 Widegate Street. Here there are glazed faience reliefs which, as a group, show the bread-making process in beautiful detail. The man in the picture is hauling flour.

3. It is, of course, Pope’s Head Alley which runs between Cornhill and Lombard Street. I have written about it and other alleys and courtyards here.

4. She is a Mercer Maiden and marks a building, or an area, as belonging to the Mercer Company. She appeared a few times in 2019 blogs but I first wrote about her in detail here in 2017.

5. The artist Ben Wilson brightens up our lives by painstakingly turning pieces of discarded chewing gum into art. Read more about him and his work on the Millennium Bridge here.

6. The film was Children of the Damned and the church St Dunstan in the East. Read more and view a clip from the movie here along with a dramatic Iron Maiden soundtrack.

7. Pegasus, the winged horse, is the emblem of the Middle Temple in the Inns of Court.

8. Created by Fernando Botero especially for the site she is known as the Broadgate Venus.

9. On the Thames Riverbank large chalk beds were once laid down to provide a soft settling place for barges at low tide. Take a look at my Riverbank walk blog.

10. She is Elizabeth, the wife of Samuel Pepys, and her monument can be found in the Church of St Olave Hart Street. Pepys was distraught when she died from typhoid fever at the early age of 29. His memorial is directly opposite hers and their eyes meet eternally across the nave where they are buried alongside one another.

11. These were the stables custom-built in 1897 for the dray horses that pulled the Whitbread Brewery wagons. Where the staircase is now there was a slope which allowed the horses to be easily led up to the first floor.

12. Number 116 used to be the Margolin Gramophone Company factory. They manufactured the Dansette record player – a name very familiar to us baby-boomers. The stylus is a needle that rests against a record in order to play the recording.

13. Here you can occasionally hear the sound of running water since, directly underneath, runs probably the most famous of London’s ‘lost’ subterranean rivers, the Fleet.

14. Aldgate East station has some fascinating tiles that date from the 1930s. Many were created by the artist and craftsman Harold Stabler, who was commissioned by the London Passenger Transport Board in 1936 to design tiles to decorate new and refurbished underground stations. The first of the tiles were installed at Aldgate East when it was rebuilt in 1938.

15. It’s a memorial to Tom Smith, the inventor of the Christmas cracker. Read all about it here.

16. You will find this sculpture, which commemorates Queen Anne, outside the west front of St Paul’s Cathedral. The queen is surrounded by four allegorical figures and this one represents America. In 1712, this is what the original sculptor Francis Bird imagined an alligator would look like.

17 .This post box is just on the other side of the Henry VIII gateway to St Bartholomew’s Hospital. It’s unique in carrying no royal cipher and also because, although it faces the hospital, it is emptied from the other side of the wall in the street.

18. If you look up at the pediment of the south porch of St Paul’s Cathedral this is what you will see. Whilst staking out the foundations in the newly cleared site, Sir Christopher needed to mark a particular spot and asked a labourer to fetch a stone. The man came back with a fragment of a broken tombstone on which was carved 0ne word, RESURGAM – I shall rise again. Wren’s son later wrote that the architect never forgot that omen and it was an incident from which he drew comfort when the obstacles that arose during the long years of rebuilding seemed insuperable.

19. Thomas Cook, in partnership with his son, John Mason Cook, opened an office in Fleet Street in 1865. In accordance with his beliefs, Mr Cook senior and his wife also ran a small temperance hotel above the office. You can still see the building now, graced with numerous globes and cherubs.

20. Hundreds died when water from the pump became contaminated as a result of flowing underground too close to cemeteries.

I hope you enjoyed this year’s quiz.

Have a lovely Christmas break and a happy new year!

Do remember that you can follow me on Instagram :


The Pump of Death and a walk towards St Botolph’s

At the junction of Fenchurch Street and Leadenhall Street people usually hurry past this old water pump without a second glance, not knowing anything about some gruesome aspects of its history …

There was a well here for centuries and one appears to be shown on the Agas map of 1561 …

Look under the ‘A’ of Aldegate

After a pump was installed in the sixteenth century the water gained a reputation for being ‘bright, sparkling, and cool, and of an agreeable taste’. In the early 1870s, however, people started noticing the taste deteriorate and become foul. Then people who had drank the water started dying in great numbers in a tragedy that became known as the Aldgate Pump Epidemic.

It was known that Thames water was dangerous as illustrated by this 1850s drawing entitled The Silent Highwayman

But Aldgate water originated in the healthy springs of Hampstead and Highgate and flowed underground – so it should have been safe.

The bad news broke publicly in April 1876 …

An investigation by the Medical Officer of Health for the City revealed the terrible truth. During its passage underground from north London it had passed through and under numerous new graveyards thereby picking up the bacteria, germs and calcium from the decaying bodies. The pump was immediately closed and eventually reconnected to the safer New River Company’s supply later in 1876. You will find a fascinating history of the New River Company if you access the splendid London Inheritance blog.

The epidemic was obviously a distant memory by the nineteen twenties when Whittard’s tea merchants used to

… always get the kettles filled at the Aldgate Pump so that only the purest water was used for tea tasting.

I have discovered a few old pictures …

The pump in 1874- picture from the Wellcome Collection.

And in August 1908 a little East End boy refreshes himself using the cup attached to the pump by a chain …

The full picture …

The wolf’s head spout is said to reference the last wolf killed in the City of London …

Nice that it has survived intact into the 21st century.

Walking towards St Botolph’s church I saw on the left this magnificent drinking fountain ‘Erected by permission of the vicar and churchwardens’. It has a connection with the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association which I have written extensively about in my blog Philanthropic Fountains

It’s dedicated to the memory of Frederic David Mocatta …

A wealthy bullion broker, after he had retired from the business in 1874 he devoted himself to works of public and private benevolence, especially in the deprived East End of London. It was people from that area who raised the money for this memorial and you can read more about him here.

A little bit further on is this 1950s police call box …

This is the third one I have discovered in the City and you can read more about the others here.

As you walk up the steps to visit St Botolph’s, turn around and look across the road. There are some old late Victorian buildings that have survived redevelopment and I was struck by how much care had gone into the decoration at roof height, even though very few people would be looking up to see it …

Next week I enter St Botolph’s and will write about some of the best and most interesting monuments and memorials in the City.

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